Bulls overcome huge game by Iverson


Jordan was very impressed by Iverson's crossover.
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Scottie Pippen compares this year's Bulls to last season's version.
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PHILADELPHIA -- Scottie Pippen scored 31 points Wednesday as the Chicago Bulls held on to defeat the 76ers 108-104, despite a big game by Philadelphia rookie Allen Iverson.

As his stats indicate, Allen Iverson has shown improvement in three losses to the Bulls:
  FG Pts. Ast. TO
Nov. 2 4-13 15 2 5
Dec. 21 11-23 32 4 9
March 12 15-23 37 4 3

Iverson matched his career-high with 37 points on 15-for-23 shooting. And after feuding with the Bulls during their previous two meetings, Iverson kept his emotions in check.

"He has matured since the last time I saw him," Michael Jordan said of Iverson. "He has better control of his game, and if he doesn't alienate himself from his teammates, they'll be a better team."

"Early on, he got caught up in a lot of trash talk and stuff of that nature," Pippen added. "But he's a good player and today he had much better focus on the game."

"During the game I felt like, 'This is my style, this is how I play basketball,' and coach let me keep on doing it," Iverson said. "He let me keep playing. I was the first option. That's the way I was used to playing at Georgetown.

Michael Jordan races past his former teammate Scott Williams.

"Regardless of me being a point guard, I'm still a scorer. I'm a creator. That's the way I want to play basketball. I don't define myself as a true point guard. I want to be able to score, get assists, steal, rebound -- everything."

The highlight of Iverson's night came on a third-quarter play where he was isolated against Jordan at the foul line. Iverson made several crossover dribbles and stutter steps, popped free and made an 18-footer to tie the score.

"It was a great crossover move," Jordan said. "It wasn't the first time he's done it and it won't be the last. I'm not afraid to be shown up that way."

Jordan had 23 points, Bill Wennington scored 14 and Dennis Rodman grabbed 17 rebounds for Chicago (55-8). Luc Longley had 12 points and nine rebounds and Ron Harper recorded 11 points and seven assists for the Bulls.

"I felt that this was a game where we wouldn't have a lot of energy," Chicago coach Phil Jackson said. "We were able to sustain the effort even though we were sluggish in the first half.

"I didn't want to play the minutes that I had to play them, but the game sort of demanded it. We found a level that we could play in the fourth quarter."

Jerry Stackhouse scored 19 for the 76ers, who have lost five of their last six games.

Iverson made a driving layup as the 76ers tied the score 83-83 with 10:01 left in the fourth period. Jordan answered with a 20-footer to give the Bulls the lead for good, 85-83 with 9:32 to go.

Jason Caffey had a tip-in for his only points to give the Bulls an 87-83 lead with 9:06 remaining. Chicago could not extend the lead over six points, but didn't let it drop below two points the rest of the way.

Mark Davis, who had 12 points off the bench, made a pair of free throws as Philadelphia cut the deficit to 95-93 with 3:30 remaining. Steve Kerr answered with a pair of free throws to give the Bulls a 97-93 lead with 2:35 left.

Stackhouse made a pair of free throws to bring Philadelphia within 107-104 with 18 seconds left, but Pippen answered with a free throw one second later.

"Some people are still trying to search for moral victories," Stackhouse said. "They help pacify some people, but it's really just another loss. That is how we have to look at it.

"We have to do things to get better so we can improve and win games when we have an opportunity like that, and not just say that we are close. This is basketball, not horseshoes. We have to get all the way over the wall."

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